What’s on display on the second floor of the library this Spring? Come to Kennedy Library and check out Limitless: The Process of Innovation, a display showcasing Cal Poly’s own PROVE Lab. PROVE Lab, as the name suggests, is a Cal Poly organization that has something to prove about innovative alternative energy vehicle design. Established in 2017, PROVE Lab is actively building four amazing projects:
- developing the world’s fastest solar-powered car,
- designing an endurance vehicle meant to drive 1000 miles on a single charge,
- building a gravity racer, and
- building a biomimetic submarine they hope will win the International Submarine Races at the Carderock Naval Base in Maryland this year.
One of the many motivations for PROVE Lab is rooted in sustainability which recognizes the importance of rapidly decarbonizing the transportation sector while giving students the opportunity to tackle the challenge. If you stop by the exhibit you get the feeling that there is a ton going on, and it’s evident that innovation is not a one-step process. PROVE Lab, its faculty advisors, and the members that make up the team, recognize that the future is filled with potential if we want it to be. Will you be driving a solar car to pick up your kids from school in the next year? Probably not, but every day solar power is getting easier, cheaper, and more commonly used. And here at Cal Poly, they are supporting a sustainable stream of young and optimistic student engineers who are trying to get it right for our planet, regardless of what the world says is possible.
With all that’s going on in Spring Quarter, it’s amazing that PROVE Lab’s student engineers are still able to put in so much work on their projects, and it shows. The WASP gravity racer, a nine-and-a-half-foot long pod is covered in carbon fiber, Kevlar, and polycarbonate, and goes so fast that it utilizes both hydraulic disk brakes and a drag-racing grade parachute to come to a stop. This car will be taken to Les Eboulements in Canada, a half-mile track dropping over 200 meters, and in less than a minute, the plan is for the WASP to roll from zero to a potential 110 miles per hour to become the fastest gravity-powered car in the world.
The endurance car team has been working for two years towards creating a comprehensive model of all the vehicle’s systems while reaching out to industry mentors who help to brainstorm their way to a final concept. The BioSub team is hopeful they can win the international race by utilizing a nontraditional propeller and designing the vehicle in a shape that mimics both a shark and an orca. It is six feet long and two feet tall and the driver (a Cal Poly triathlete) will lay on his stomach inside the BioSub to propel the mechanical, cetacean-like tail by peddling to swing it back and forth. It is a crazy idea, and the design is even crazier. But it just might be crazy enough to win.